hi·​a·​tus hī-ˈā-təs How to pronounce hiatus (audio)
: a break in or as if in a material object : gap
the weedy hiatus between the town and the railroadWilla Cather
the hiatus between the theory and the practice of the partyJ. G. Colton
biology : a gap or passage in an anatomical part or organ
: an interruption in time or continuity : break
especially : a period when something (such as a program or activity) is suspended or interrupted
after a 5-year hiatus from writing
a summer hiatus
: the occurrence of two vowel sounds without pause or intervening consonantal sound

Did you know?

This brief hiatus in your day is brought to you by, well, hiatus. While the word now most often refers to a temporary pause, hiatus originally referred to a physical opening in something, such as the mouth of a cave, or, as the 18th century British novelist Laurence Sterne would have it, a sartorial gap: in the wildly experimental novel Tristram Shandy, Sterne wrote of “the hiatus in Phutatorius’s breeches.” Hiatus comes from the Latin verb hiare, meaning “to open wide,” which makes it a distant relation of both yawn and chasm. And that’s all we have for now—you may resume your regular activities.

Examples of hiatus in a Sentence

The band is making an album again after a five-year hiatus. steam was rising from an hiatus in the ground
Recent Examples on the Web After a five-year hiatus, the Breakers returned as an inaugural member of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2008. Joe Eachus, BostonGlobe.com, 18 Sep. 2023 By 2002, the band went on hiatus, and Timberlake began a successful solo career, with Chasez, Fatone, Kirkpatrick, and Bass exploring other avenues in film, music and television. Ilana Kaplan, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2023 The Drew Barrymore Show is coming back from hiatus without its WGA writers. Vulture, 11 Sep. 2023 Last year, Tommy Hilfiger returned to New York Fashion Week in Brooklyn after a three-year hiatus — and hasn’t taken the foot off the gas since. Waiss Aramesh, Rolling Stone, 11 Sep. 2023 The Prince and Princess of Wales, who have officially returned to work after taking a brief hiatus during their children’s summer vacation, attended an intimate private service at St. Davids Cathedral in Wales today. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 8 Sep. 2023 Now, after a four-year hiatus, the lingerie brand came back Wednesday night with a complete overhaul that was part fashion event and part preview of a documentary-style film featuring 20 global creatives. Anne D'innocenzio, Fortune, 7 Sep. 2023 The film is the second for the actor this year, following a four-year hiatus from the screen. Rhea Mogul, CNN, 6 Sep. 2023 The release of these flavorful new creations saw the temporary hiatus of the vanilla Frosty, which returned to menus in January 2023. Sam Burros, Peoplemag, 6 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hiatus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, from hiare to yawn — more at yawn

First Known Use

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of hiatus was in 1563


Dictionary Entries Near hiatus

Cite this Entry

“Hiatus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hiatus. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


hi·​a·​tus hī-ˈāt-əs How to pronounce hiatus (audio)
plural hiatuses
: a gap in space or time
especially : a break where a part is missing

Medical Definition


hi·​a·​tus hī-ˈāt-əs How to pronounce hiatus (audio)
: a gap or passage through an anatomical part or organ
especially : an opening through which another part or organ passes (such as the opening in the diaphragm through which the esophagus and vagus nerves pass)

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